20 years ago, China Southwest Airlines (now Air China) and the French engine maker, Snecma (now Safran Aircraft Engines) seeded together a promising plant in Chengdu, Sichuan. The young plant thrived and rooted deeply in the fertile soil of the land of abundance, to become a leader in China's aviation engine maintenance industry. In 2010, the Sino-French Joint Venture took the name of Sichuan Services Aero-engine Maintenance Company (hereinafter referred to as “SSAMC”) and welcomed a 3rd shareholder, the US engine maker, GE Aviation to form an international company starting the journey to be a world class leader in engine MRO services.
The First Successe
In April 2000, SSAMC inducted its first engine, a CFM56-3 and it was the beginning of the long success story.
Mr. Patrice Perreau-Saussine, SSAMC’s first General Manager said: “When we started the operations in April 2000, SSAMC was the first Engine Maintenance and Repair Shop in China certified by CAAC”.
The first CFM56-3 was delivered to Air China Southwest in October 2000. SSAMC was able to train a team in Paris (France) and to perform the shop visit by delivering on-time the engine to its first customer in only 5 months!!
“The high level of intelligence of these teams as well as their remarkable capacity for adaptability has enabled SSAMC to be the modern repair shop it is today”, said SSAMC’s first General Manager
Becoming a leader in engine MRO services
After getting the Maintenance Certificates from the US FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in December 2001 and the Maintenance Certificates from the European EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) in May 2005, SSAMC started to repair its first CFM56-7B engine (B737).
In 2008, SSAMC added the CFM56-5B engine (AIRBUS A320) in its repair capability list and held, in 2009, the ceremony for its 100th Shop Visit.
“SSAMC improved dramatically during this period by adding CFM 56-5B and CFM 56 -7 MRO capabilities, increasing the number of shop visits, gaining new customers outside China and reaching profitability”, said Mr. Yves Prete, SSAMC’s General between 2005-2009.
In 2013, SSAMC signed an agreement with Chengdu Shuangliu District Government to launch, in 2016, the construction of a new Engine Repair Shop.
In 2016, SSAMC stepped into the future by receiving the approval from the 3 major airworthiness authorities (CAAC, FAA and EASA) to support the new in-service fleet of LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B engines in China.
The engine MRO Shop 2.0
After an investment close to 1 billion Yuan in Chengdu Comprehensive Bonded Zone (Shuangliu), the 3 shareholders of SSAMC and many officials inaugurated in March 2018 a brand-new engine MRO shop with a capacity to repair 300 CFM* engines per year.
“This new plant is one of the key pillars of a bridge. The bridge that will take SSAMC to its future, to become a world-class leader on CFM engines MRO Services”, said Mr. Ricardo Gentil Peixoto Da Costa, SSAMC’s General Manager between 2014-2018
With this new shop, SSAMC has jumped into the MRO 2.0 era with lots of new technologies: the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to trace the parts in the shop, automated lines to increase the efficiency, and several advanced equipment: intelligent kitting system, inspection aided by artificial intelligence.
A bright future
Being a world class shop means to be always at the cutting edge of the technology. Digitalization, Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics are the technologies which SSAMC is implementing to enhance its performance. SSAMC has a clear plan to develop its customer portfolio not only in the domestic Chinese market but also in overseas.
With the LEAP engine, the successor of CFM56, the fastest-selling engine in aviation history, SSAMC plans to increase its deliveries up to 300 engines repaired per year after 2025.
Following this plan, SSAMC completed, in July 2020, the full MRO repair capability testing the first LEAP-1B in China and plans to add the LEAP-1A test capability in early 2021.
Concerning the LEAP-1C, SSAMC is already the CFM MRO “Prime Partner” shop for COMAC C919. SSAMC is investing to support the in-service fleet after the Entry Into Service (EIS) and the future engine shop visits.
Since 2017, SSAMC Teams have been supporting the COMAC C919 flight test campaigns for the certification.
"C919 is the first large commercial aircraft designed and manufactured in China. It is a portrayal of China’s aviation dream becoming a reality. I feel a special honor and very proud by being able to support the flight test campaign, even I have only tightened a screw on the engine”, said a SSAMC’s operator.
2020 definitely remains a special and challenging year! Life around the world has been disrupted by the unexpected COVID-19 outbreak, while Aviation industry is still suffering from its global impact.
“I can say my predecessors did extremely well because SSAMC has been so resilient since the COVID-19 has surged. Despite the difficult situation, SSAMC Teams were able to continue to serve their customers with a limited impact, were able to continue to prepare their future by in-sourcing new repairs for CFM56 and LEAP engines, and one their major achievements in 2020 was to be awarded by a 3rd party customer with the biggest Engine Repairs contract ever signed since SSAMC creation”, said Jean Michel TOMAS, the current General Manager since November 2018.